1. Elizabeth Berg includes an Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, informing us that this work of fiction is a bit different from her other novels. What did you think of this choice before reading Berg’s story? Did your opinion change after you read the book? How?
2. At the end of the Prologue, speaking about her mother and herself, Diana reflects: “[Elvis] had a kind of great luck and then terrible tragedy. For us, it was the opposite.” What do you think she means by this? After finishing the novel, do you agree with her?
3. Despite skepticism from the medical community, Paige Dunn gives birth to her daughter, Diana, in an iron lung, and they both survive. Even more amazingly, Paige is determined to raise Diana despite her condition. What do you think about Paige’s decision to keep her baby? Do you support her?
4. How does Paige compensate for her disabilities and serve as a strong parental figure for her daughter? Do you think Diana is forced to grow up a bit faster than other kids her age because of her mother’s condition? Why or why not?
5. Berg sets her novel in Tupelo, Mississippi, during the volatile Freedom Summer of 1964. How does she weave the events of the civil rights movement into her novel? Is the civil rights movement simply background for the story or a part of the story itself?
6. How does Peacie function in the novel? Describe her relationship with Diana. Is it motherly? Sisterly? Something different? How does Peacie interact with Paige? How is their relationship different from Peacie’s relationship with Diana?
7. Discuss Peacie and LaRue. What is their relationship like? How is their life away from the Dunns different? How does their relationship with Diana enhance her understanding of the political and cultural climate of the time?
8. Describe Diana’s friendship with Suralee. How do the girls interact? Why do you think Diana likes to play with Suralee? Can Suralee ever be a good friend?
9. What do you make of Dell’s courtship of Paige? Were you surprised by his treatment of her? Disappointed? How do you think Diana feels about their relationship, both while it is happening and once it is over?
10. Berg’s novel is full of strong female characters. Compare and contrast the women in the novel, from Paige to Peacie to Mrs. Gruder to Mrs. Halloway and others. How are they similar and dissimilar? What about Diana and Suralee? How do they assert themselves as strong figures in the novel, even though they are still very young?
11. Consider how Diana changes and grows throughout the course of the novel. How does she react when her mother gets sick? When her father rejects her? When Peacie and LaRue leave town? Discuss her progression as a character.
12. Berg chooses interesting and appropriate names for a few of her characters, such as Peacie. Do these monikers enrich the characters, in your opinion? Do any other names stand out for you? Why?
13. In the beginning of the novel, Diana reflects, “I believed that despite what people said, money could buy happiness.” Does this prove true in the novel? Do you think she changes her mind after winning the sweepstakes? Why or why not?
14. Elvis Presley makes a grand entrance at the end of the novel. What did you make of his appearance? What did you think of Paige’s reaction to it? Were you happy to see him? Were you disappointed that he doesn’t return?
15. At the end of the novel, Diana tells us that she says a prayer every night, and that she always thanks her mother. Diana adds, “I tell her I’m fine. I say I’m happy. I say she was right.” What do you think she means? What was Paige right about?